Maintaining Legal Status

As a non-immigrant visa holder, it is imperative to maintain your legal status while studying, teaching, or conducting research at Lehigh University to avoid jeopardizing your academic activities and career.   To maintain your immigration status legal, you must:

  • Keep your passport valid at least six months into future at all time.
  • To obtain information on how to renew your passport, you may visit your home country embassy or consulate
  • You must register and complete a full course load of a minimum of nine credits for graduate students and 12 credits for undergraduate students per semester.
  • You must notify OISS any change of your academic program and financial support.
  • You must extend your I-20 or DS2019 if your study or research goes beyond the initial program end date. 
  • Notify OISS within 10 days of moving and the new address will be entered into the SEVIS database within 10 days of the move.
  • Never engage in unauthorized employment off-campus anywhere in the U.S.

Contact OISS (email: for any questions.

Maintaining Full-Time Student Status

International students in F-1 status are required to register for and complete a full course load of a minimum of nine (9) credits for graduate students per semester and twelve (12) credits for undergraduate students per semester.

Part-time enrollment must be approved by the OISS in advance, before registration is completed. If you are going to enroll on a part-time basis for any reason, you must obtain OISS approval. Failure to comply with this regulation may have severe consequences regarding your ability to stay in the U.S. to study or work. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you register full-time or gain OISS approval for part-time study.

Important notes on "full-time study for graduates"

Ordinarily, graduate students must register for and complete a minimum of nine credits every fall and spring semester in order to be considered full-time. However, graduate students may be considered as equivalent to full-time (i.e.,
has "full-time equivalency") with less than nine credits of registration if one of the following exception applies:

  • You have fulfilled all coursework requirements and are working full-time on thesis or dissertation research

Students who are granted full-time equivalency by their departments must be designated as "full-time" or "fully-certified" also by the University Registrar each semester, as reflected in Banner. Please consult OISS if you are unsure about your
current enrollment designation.

When is part-time enrollment allowed in relation to immigration purposes?

Part-time enrollment of less than nine credits for graduate students and twelve credits for undergraduate students per semester is permitted only in certain circumstances. You must receive approval from OISS FIRST before dropping a class, withdrawing, etc. OISS cannot grant approval for part-time enrollment retroactively.

Part-time enrollment is permitted only if one of the following applies:

  • It is your first semester in the U.S., and your department and ESL Office recommends part-time study in addition to English-language courses.
  • You were placed at the wrong course level.
  • You have unavoidable medical problems which require a temporary reduction in your course load.
  • It is your last semester prior to graduation, and you need less than nine credits for graduate students, or twelve credits for undergraduate students, to satisfy your degree requirements.  Graduate students must complete a full-time certification with their department during the registration period.  Please note that if there is only one course left in the final semester, the course cannot be completed through online. 

Please keep in mind that you must obtain approval for part-time enrollment for any of the above circumstances. You must enroll on a full-time basis if (a) you do not meet one of the above conditions or (b) if you do not have OISS approval for part-time enrollment.

What happens if I do not get part-time study approval?

If you are enrolled on a part-time basis but do not have OISS approval, you will lose the benefits of lawful student status and may even lose your eligibility to stay in the U.S.  Failing to receive approval for part-time study will result in the following circumstances:

  • Your eligibility to apply for on-campus employment or off-campus employment benefits, including optional practical training
  • Your eligibility to receive OISS recertification for travel outside of the U.S.

Students who are not in lawful student status may have to apply for reinstatement or depart the U.S.